Autophobia is the fear of being alone or lonely. Being alone can result in severe anxiety for people with this condition. Autophobia can be managed with a combination of treatments, including CBT, exposure therapy, and medications.
People with autophobia feel they need another person or other people around in order to feel safe.
Even when a person with autophobia knows they’re physically safe, they may live in fear of:
- being unloved
- being unwanted
- coming down with a sudden medical problem
- hearing unexpected or unexplained noises
Autophobia is an irrational anxiety that develops when a person fears they may end up alone. While there may not be an actual threat of being alone, the person will still be unable to control their symptoms.
The person may be unable to function normally until they no longer feel alone. When they’re alone, they may feel a desperate need to end their solitude as soon as they can.
A person will develop symptoms of the disorder when they get into a situation where they could end up alone. Symptoms of autophobia include:
- obsessively worrying about being alone
- experiencing fears of what could happen while being alone
- feeling detached from your body when alone
- experiencing shaking, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, and nausea when alone or in a situation where you could soon become alone
- a feeling of extreme terror when alone or in a situation where you could soon become alone
- an overwhelming desire to flee when you’re alone
- anxiety from anticipating loneliness
As with many phobias, the causes of autophobia are not well known. Some possible causes include:
- having been alone during a traumatic event
- feeling abandoned in childhood as a result of an experience like a parental divorce or a death in the family
- other experiences of adversity in childhood
- having a parent or sibling with the same phobia or a different one
Autophobia may also be a symptom of various disorders like anxiety or even personality disorders like borderline or dependent personality disorder.
Autophobia is a phobia, or fear-based disorder. If you suspect you have autophobia, you should talk with a doctor. They can refer you to a mental health care specialist.
When you see a mental health specialist, they’ll perform a psychological evaluation. They’ll ask for your medical history to see if a physical problem is affecting your mental health. After that, they’ll perform a psychological evaluation. This involves asking lots of questions about your daily activities and feelings.
Autophobia is considered a situational phobia. This means that the situation of being alone or loneliness causes extreme distress. To be diagnosed with autophobia, your fear of being alone causes you so much anxiety that it interferes with your daily routine.
In some cases, people have more than one phobia at a time. It’s possible that you’re dealing with more than one phobia, which could be making your autophobia even more challenging to cope with. Talk with your doctor about any other fears you have.
People with specific phobias like autophobia are often treated with psychotherapy. The most common types are exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Exposure therapy treats an avoidance behavior that has developed over time. The goal is for this treatment to improve your quality of life so that your phobias no longer limit what you’re capable of doing in your daily life.
Your doctor will re-expose you to the source of your phobia over and over again. They’ll do this first in a controlled setting where you feel safe and eventually will move to a real-life situation.
For autophobia, your therapist will work with you toward increasing your tolerance of being left alone for increasing periods of time. It could begin as walking out of your therapist’s office and standing a few yards away for a short period. The distance and time can be increased as you make progress each day.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
In CBT, your therapist will expose you to your phobia. They’ll also use other techniques that help you learn how to confront and cope with being alone in a more constructive way. They’ll work with you to examine your pattern of thinking around your phobia.
CBT can give you a sense of confidence when confronting your autophobia. This will help you feel much less overwhelmed the next time you have to confront it.
In most cases, psychotherapy alone is successful in treating autophobia. But medication can sometimes be useful in helping reduce a person’s symptoms so that they can recover through psychotherapy.
Your mental health care professional may prescribe medications at the beginning of your treatment. They may also instruct you to use it in specific or infrequent short-term situations.
Some commonly used medications for people with autophobia include:
- Beta blockers. These drugs block stimulation caused by adrenaline in the body.
- Sedatives. Benzodiazepine sedatives can help you relax by minimizing the amount of anxiety you feel. These drugs should be used cautiously because they can be addictive. This is especially true in people with a history of drug or alcohol dependence.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressant medications are prescribed for phobias as well as anxiety disorders.
“Being alone” has a different meaning for different people. Some people fear being without a specific person — or sometimes any person — in close proximity.
And the need for proximity varies from person to person. Some people with autophobia feel a need to be in the same room as another person, but being in the same house or building is OK for others.
For people with autophobia, the need to be with someone else gets in the way of leading a happy, productive life because they’re constantly living in fear of being alone.
If you think you have the symptoms of autophobia, rest assured that there is help out there for you. If you stick to your treatment plan, recovery is possible. Schedule a visit with your primary care doctor or a mental health care professional.
With the right combination of treatments, you’ll better learn to manage and understand your reactions, feelings, and thoughts.